Basic Marinara Sauce

homemade marinara sauce

The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 40 mins
Servings: 4 to 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
105 Calories
5g Fat
13g Carbs
2g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 105
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 27mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 13g 5%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Protein 2g
Calcium 58mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This basic marinara sauce has great flavor and a nice texture. Use this sauce with any pasta dish. Use a food processor to chop the vegetables or chop them by hand and give it a quick blend at the end for a smooth texture.

Serve this marinara over your favorite spaghetti or ravioli or use it as a sauce for vegetable lasagna or manicotti. The recipe serves four as a main serving or eight as a dipping sauce or use in a recipe like lasagna. Double the marinara sauce recipe to make a big batch and freeze the extra sauce in two-cup or single-serve containers.


  • 1 small onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small carrot (roughly chopped)
  • 1 rib celery (roughly chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
  • 3/4 cup water (or broth, as needed)
  • 1 bay leaf (dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Optional: 1/4 teaspoon dried basil

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Put the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Or finely chop the vegetables by hand.

  3. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the vegetables and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes.

  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, water or broth, bay leaf, salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper and basil (if using). Stir.

  5. Bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to low; simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

  6. If you prefer a smooth sauce, purée it in batches in a blender. Make sure you never fill the blender more than one-third to one-half full with the hot sauce mixture. Leave the lid slightly cracked and cover with a folded kitchen towel in hand. Steam from hot liquids can blow the lid off of a blender if it's too full and tightly closed.

  7. Use the finished marinara sauce immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer. Bring the sauce to a simmer before serving.

Use Caution When Blending Hot Ingredients

Steam expands quickly in a blender, and can cause ingredients to splatter everywhere or cause burns. To prevent this, fill the blender only one-third of the way up, vent the top, and cover with a folded kitchen towel while blending.


  • If the sauce is too thick, add some extra water or a small amount of vegetable broth, chicken stock, or tomato juice.
  • Use an immersion blender to purée the sauce.
  • Use leftover marinara sauce as a dip for appetizers, such as spinach balls, fried mozzarella, breadsticks, fried seafood, or chicken nuggets.
  • Instead of ketchup, spread marinara sauce over a homemade meatloaf or drizzle it over an omelet.

Recipe Variations

  • The chopped carrot adds sweetness, but if it still tastes a bit acidic, add a small amount of sugar, to taste.
  • Anchovy paste can add richness to marinara sauce. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste to the sauce.

What Is the Difference Between Marinara and Spaghetti Sauce?

There's very little difference between the two sauces. Marinara sauce is a meatless tomato-based sauce that cooks quickly, while spaghetti sauce is usually simmered for a longer period of time and often contains meat. Marinara sauce is fine to use on spaghetti and other kinds of pasta.